retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has "signed off on genetically modified varieties of apples and potatoes, and for the first time suggested the products might need to carry a label to inform consumers about the ways in which they’re different from conventional varieties ... Both the apple and the potato differ from the existing roster of genetically modified crops in that they provide benefits to consumers. Other modified crops, like corn and soybeans, are made to withstand certain pesticides, making them easier for farmers to grow."

The story goes on: "The FDA said Friday that it didn’t think the Arctic apple or the Innate potato posed a risk to human health, concluding that 'these foods are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.' The FDA is still deciding whether to require labels on the apple or potato, alerting consumers to the traits that make them different from conventional varieties. The agency is unlikely to require a label that identifies the products as being modified."

The apple has been designed to resist browning when cut open, while the potato "is designed to have fewer black spots from bruising and produce lower levels of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen that forms in potatoes when cooked at high temperatures."

Consumers Union issued the following statement: "These new varieties covered by FDA's announcement today all use a new form of genetic engineering, called RNA interference, also called RNAi.  The safety of this type of engineering, which works by shutting down the ability of RNA to translate DNA into protein in a cell, raises many new, unanswered questions.

"An EPA scientific advisory panel on pesticides issued a report in 2014 that stated this technology needs further evaluation in terms of its use for pesticidal purposes. The panel recommended further study of this topic, particularly in people who are sick, immune compromised, children or the elderly.

"Consumers Union is also concerned that FDA has not required labeling of this apple, which is engineered to sit around for significant periods of time without turning brown.  Consumers could easily be deceived about the freshness of slices of this apple.  FDA says companies should 'consult' with them about labeling, but like with all other genetically engineered food, requires no full disclosure to consumers."
KC's View:
So the FDA is willing to say that these items are different and how they're different...but not say that they've been genetically engineered? I'm not sure that this is either logical nor sustainable ... and may be too cute by half.